One very early summer morning in another busy chapter of my life a sweet friend phoned: did I want to meet her at the pool so our kids could have a splashy play date? Sure, we’d love that, I said. So I gathered my high-maintenance first-grader and our stuff and off we went. I pulled in next to her car just as she was unloading the brood—six-year-old triplets. They had a big day ahead beyond swimming. It included lunch with us followed by tennis lessons and other summertime activities later on. She looked harried and it was still early. The kids ran ahead while the two of us gathered up towels and pool toys; she handed me some things to carry.
“I don’t know how you do it,” I mused. “How do you keep up with three of them, and all their business?” I was addressing a brilliant woman, former tennis champion, and attorney who’d given herself over to full-time parenting. If anybody could handle six-year-old triplets, it was she.
Standing up straight and blowing pretty brown curls away from her face, she squared her thin frame and quipped without flinching, “You’ve got to have a lot of bags.”
I took that wisdom to heart. From that moment forward I felt a paradigm shift that would redefine how I organized the difficult job of mothering a tricky child, even if I bungled other components of my on-the-job training. We started living out of canvas tote bags—one for every activity.
Mother’s Day brings with it the usual conundrum: what gift will make mom smile? That is, aside from the homemade cards she’ll treasure the rest of her life, sticky, syrup-y breakfast in bed, and maybe a tiny bud vase with flowers carefully plucked from her garden?
Here is a bit of heartfelt advice: you can’t go wrong with a cotton canvas tote bag. I know whereof I speak. It’s a great gift idea (and it makes a perfect vessel for other small gifts hidden inside).
From the Chiapas region of Mexico comes a beautiful textile woven by indigenous artisans, heirs to the great civilizations that ruled the Mayan highlands and jungles some 1,500 years ago. Thence to Eugene, Oregon, where it is transformed into the lovely Weaver’s House Tote, reversible, utilitarian, with modern sensibilities.
Weaver’s House. Or in the local Tzotzil tongue, Sna Jolobil. A collective of over 800 weavers from 20 Tzotzil and Tzeital communities in Mexico’s southeastern highlands, whose main objective is to preserve and revitalize this one facet of Mayan culture. Sna Jolobil has been around for three decades, recently relocating to the restored Santo Domingo Convent in Chiapas, also home to the Maya World Textile Center. Its mission is threefold: the study and recreation of ancient textiles, practicing authentic dyeing methods for wool and cotton, and preserving ancient weaving techniques.
This is not just any old cotton canvas bag. It represents a journey that crosses borders and time: the artwork of an ancient civilization preserved by its descendants, practitioners of an intricate weaving method, and transformed into a thoroughly modern tote here at home, where it is pressed into service by busy people. It’s fair trade utility in a piece of portable artwork.
It is the carrying of culture and knowledge from generation to generation that makes the Sna Jolobil weavers and their beautiful textiles so meaningful. And that passing of the torch really describes a mother’s important work in a nutshell, doesn’t it?
You’ve got your Mother’s Day gift in the bag: The Weaver’s House Tote.